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Homily for Advent 1 (B)

“He has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task.”

As the exhortation “Stay awake” occurs four times in eight lines of text, you might think that I would have chosen that text from today’s gospel as the basis of my homily today, but, somehow, staying awake is a given in this beautiful season of Advent, despite the strong desire to hibernate. We look up and we see the stars in Advent. We dwell for a moment on the wonder of all Creation as we come into this period of preparation for Christmas. It is as if, in preparation to giving our worship to something very small, we think big, as big as possible. And we don’t just spend our time in awe of the beauty of all things, we remember that we are part of it. In our first reading today, there is that telling passage where we encounter the human race bargaining yet again with God, as we are wont to do. You remember it addresses God, admitting that, “we had long been rebels against you” and done all sort of bad things, yet reminding our Maker of the following…

“Lord, you are our Father;
we the clay, you the potter,
we are all the work of your hand.”

It is a lovely image. Clearly, here the purpose of the image is to placate the Father and remind him of his relationship with us, perhaps to hint that it can’t all be our fault if we get it wrong sometimes. You are the potter, God! The image comes into our minds of a potter shaping the clay on his wheel and turning the clay into something beautiful, and, perhaps, we remember trying to do the same thing ourselves, or seeing others trying to do it for the first time and ending up with a lot of messy clay everywhere. You need to be a potter to pot. You need to be God to play God.

And so it is that, through the images provided by our Advent readings, we remember that there is a great Creator, an architect, a craftsman of Creation and that we are intimately part of the whole thing. We are connected, intimately connected with the universe around us and we have had bestowed upon an enormous responsibility for the space that we occupy and share. The master has gone abroad for a while and has left his servants in charge, that’s you and me, each with his or her own task. Some of the tasks are burdensome but difficult and necessary, like forgiving one another and caring for those in need. Like building the kingdom of peace and justice in this world of ours so that it looks like it was made by a loving Creator. But it is also our task to breathe, to flourish, to fulfil ourselves and to look in wonder on the sheer beauty of all that there is. It is our task to come to Church and learn to pray deep in our hearts to the Father who loves us, not out of dry duty, but because when we pray we are really connected to the fountainhead of all things and we are inspired by Him who breathed his life into us in the first place. In this Advent together, we need to learn to love life again, to wonder at it, to find the tender and glorious heart of things so that we can look beyond our prejudices, look beyond our faults, look beyond our failings and really feel the hope that we share. God will give us all his blessings, if we ask Him. What does St Paul say in our second reading?

“Christ has indeed been strong among you so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day…God is faithful.”

God is indeed faithful. But he needs us to take the opportunities that we have to serve him. No, perhaps first he needs us to take the opportunities that we have to love Him, because if we do that, everything else will follow, and our Advent dreams will become a reality and the beauty of the universe and the overwhelming love of God will be seen in everything that we do.

Some words of Pope Francis.

“The Church begins there in the heart of the Father, who had this idea . . . of love. So this love story began; a story that has gone on for so long, and is not yet ended. We, the women and men of the Church, we are in the middle of a love story: each of us is a link in this chain of love. And if we do not understand this, we have understood nothing of what the Church is.”

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